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Should football be cancelled?
It may be a strange thing for a football fan to request but why can’t we cancel this weekend’s Premier League program?
I fully understand playing the England/France match as it shows defiance in the face of terrorism.
But we often forget footballers are people not machines. Who knows what effect Friday’s events had on the German and French players playing, not to mention the Premier League players who weren’t playing but have family in the French capital.
Personally, I think this weekend’s games should be cancelled and players allowed a week to spend with their families.
In the end Shankley was wrong – it is just a game.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
A pessimist is never disappointed…
…but they’re never that happy, either.
Just to agree with Ben Doherty’s sentiments about being eternally optimistic about England’s (or your team of choice) chances in tournaments.
As far as I can see, you can either be optimistic and have a few months of parabolic excitement leading up our inevitable quarter-final penalty shoot-out defeat, followed by a few days of disappointment – or you can dismiss England’s chances well in advance, have no enthusiasm leading up to the tournament, and your reward will be a few days of smugly telling anyone who’ll listen that you knew all along that England didn’t have a chance.
The latter option generally makes you irritating both before and after England’s departure from the competition, and ultimately will make you so unenthusiastic that when we finally do win something (my guess is 2048), you’ll no longer be interested anyway and the momentous event will pass you by.
In the words of Kevin Spacey in K-Pax, “You can’t win the raffle if you don’t buy a ticket.”
Dan, (might have misattributed that quote), Brighton
If Dele Alli can get in…
I attended the Spain vs England game on Friday and finally managed to catch the highlights on television last night.
One comment from Clive Tyldesley nearly made me choke on my paella….Dele Alli was selected to play for England after only eight appearances for Tottenham.
How the bloody hell can you be selected to play for England after only eight games at club level? How can a manager work out if he has the quality to be selected for England? We’ve seen so many players over the years burst on the scene only to end up in the Championship after one season. Before the mailbox hammers me, I don’t care how good he is, he doesn’t deserve to run around after a player like Iniesta at international level.
Playing for England should be the pinnacle of a player’s career, surely it should be more difficult than being selected after eight games at club level? It also begs the question, which other players have been selected for England after such a small amount of games like Alli?
Jimmy (Might get my boots back out if it’s this easy) Spain
Don’t pick form players for England
After reading you article ‘Jesse Lingard? Four better England options’, I felt necessary to share my opinion why players like Albrighton and Puncheon won’t be called up for England (at least not any time soon) and why Jesse Lingard won’t be the last top six player with three matches under his belt to get the call. And why it is a good thing – for the team, not for the press of course.
Firstly, it is only logical that players from the best teams (in the long term) get preference over others. On the duty for England the players are under enormous pressure, comparable only with pressure at top four-six (or so) clubs. They are somehow more used to the style of international football as they at least encounter continental opposition quite regularly during cup competitions.
Secondly, it is very much possible that for example Albrighton is only going through a purple patch at the moment and will cede to be quoted for England in half a year. If players get called up on the merit that they recorded the most assists in the last month, scored more goals than someone who was in the last squad or were just good in a televised game, the squad will lack any cohesion and experience. That is why it is necessary to stick with a group of players and only supplement them with a few additions on form. Which is actually what Roy Hodgson is doing.
We’ve still got Phil
Just seen the Scholes goal from the charity game. Looking forward to seeing the next edition of euro 2016 ladder, can see Phil Neville getting a bump up the ladder following his impressive effort to keep the ball in for Becks to cross.
Actually, England could win something…
I felt compelled to write in to strongly disagree with John Nicholson’s article. It trots out the same old tired lines that every pub bore up and down the country has been trotting out for the past ten years. I realise he’s being deliberately generalistic, but surely he’s capable of something more insightful. Particularly given the fact that there is overwhelming evidence against what he’s saying.
To categorise England as a ‘second rank nation, somewhere between 9th and 16th that will sometimes beat teams above them and usually beat teams below them,’ whilst painting us as some sort of plucky underdogs, is quite poor. There was a guy in the Mailbox the other day who summed it up perfectly. We go into the tournament next year with only three or four teams that are clearly better than us. I’ll even name them: France, Germany and Spain. And the gap isn’t that big. Don’t be fooled by Spain having lots of the ball against an England team missing a number of its best players. The Netherlands played in a similar fashion last year and beat them rather convincingly.
As for the historical re-writing; it beggars belief, really. The suggestion that our players were somehow uplifted by the foreign players around them at club level is quite frankly, nonsense. Look at the number of foreign players that extol the virtues of the likes of Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard and Terry. Try telling Suarez, Torres or Alonso that playing with Gerrard didn’t make them better players.
The FIFPro World XI has been running since 2004/5. From 2005 to 2009, there was between one and three England players in that team every year. Maybe everyone else in the world was reading the English press and over-rating our players too? Since 2009? One entry: Wayne Rooney in 2011. The ‘Golden Generation’ really were that good. Sorry to go against the grain, but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the fact that we produced a fantastic group of players that lacked a little bit of luck, and arguably, the ability to form a cohesive unit.
As for the current crop, well, I don’t think that they’re necessarily anything special. But that’s okay. It may well be that’s what it takes to form something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The encouraging thing is that no-one is particularly special. Italy are poor, Belgium are over-rated, Germany and Spain are in transition. France look decent, but it’s an open tournament as far as I see it. There’s no reason to jump to the conclusions many people have after losing 2-0 away to Spain.
Since the World Cup, France have lost to Albania, Germany have lost to USA and Ireland, Spain have lost to Slovakia. England have lost to Spain, and that’s it. England should go to France next year with a quiet confidence that they can play a major part. They’re not the favourites, and nor should they be, but with a little bit of luck, they could achieve something big. Ever was it thus.
…As much as I agree with JN’s piece on Roy, England managers more broadly and their treatment by our bloody media, I do want to take issue with the implication that hoping/expecting a bit of success is nothing more than English arrogance. No, we’re not Germany by a long stretch; but even if we accept we’re one of the second-rank sides, does this mean that looking for us to achieve something is nothing more than stupidity?
I say no. Since we came fourth in 1990, two of the five teams who’ve won the Euros are Denmark and Greece; Portugal and the Czech Republic have both reached the final in that time too. As for the World Cup: Daniel Storey’s excellent profile of Stoichkov last week reminded me of Bulgaria scorching their way to the semis in 1994, alongside Brolin-Dahlin-Brolin-era Sweden. That amazing Croatia side who got to the semis in 98 still makes me go a bit funny; Turkey and South Korea were 3rd and 4th in 2002; Portugal were semi-finalists in 2006; while Uruguay got to the semis in 2010 (and it should have been Ghana). 2014’s semis were all big guns, although considering what Holland, Van Gaal, Van Persie and the Blinds have (n’t) achieved in the 12 months since, you could make a good case that they were over-achieving then too.
Are England one of the best teams in the world? Absolutely not, and the pool of players available at the minute – even with Sturridge, Wilshere, Walcott, etc. all fit – is probably worse than at any time in my life. But, if you take away the tournaments that have been held in England, we’ve won nothing, and got to the semi-finals of a tournament once. Is that really par for the course?
Consider the stack of second/third (/fourth?) tier sides listed above who’ve done more than us in the last 25 years: I don’t think that saying England should be achieving more automatically marks someone out as a Britun Furst, morepashun!!, Talksport-phoning mouth-breather who thinks we should be winning the World Cup every year. Suggesting England should be looking to achieve the same as Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Uruguay, South Korea, etc. is absolutely fair enough; and we’re not doing it.
Not all England expects
I admire Ben Doherty’s optimism and appreciate the spirit of his support but I think that’s exactly the kind of thinking that leads to the post-tournament blame festival and hand-wringing when we are inevitably beaten on penos by Portugal in the last 16. I think it’s better to have a more grounded attitude to England’s chances – it will help with the tears and stops newspapers ridiculously over-stating our chances pre-tournament, only to blame everything on Raheem Sterling when it all goes tits up.
I think most England fans would be absolutely delighted with a decent run of it and to finally beat a good team in a tournament knock-out match. The 5-1 against Germany is a game that is etched into our sporting memories and that was a qualifier. Can you imagine if we beat a team like Spain or France in the knock-out stage? Everyone would lose their sh*t. In fact, we have lost or drawn to every half-decent side we have faced in serious competition since Euro ’96. I think the only exception is beating Argentina in a World Cup group game but I may be wrong on that.
If you look at our record in tournaments over the past 20 years, it is frankly pretty appalling considering some of the players we have had. The best tournament we’ve participated in since we hosted the Euros were the ’98 and ’02 World Cups and I’d say our team then was significantly stronger than it is now all over the pitch. Our ‘Golden Generation’ never got past the quarters.
I really love supporting England – for me (Clive), there is still nothing more exciting than watching England play in a proper International tournament. I love getting p*ssed up, shouting obscenities at the clearly biased referee and cradling my head in my hands as another Rooney chance sails over the crossbar. Sadly, I also understand that, all things considered, getting past the last 16 would be a small triumph. I think the more we accept this, the less of that terrible ‘England Expects’ attitude you will see bandied around the red-tops.
Smyth, MUFC (#believe)
When you like your rivals…
Gavin (COYBIG) Dundalk, as a West Ham fan I am supposed to hate Spurs, but as my mother went on to marry a Spurs fan who took me to Spurs games as a kid as a bonding effort, I like them sufficiently to call them my second team!
The best game I have ever attended was with my brother (also Spurs), away to Arsenal when VDV and Bale ripped them a new one after being 2-0 down at half time. Peak, Peak Arsenal as ‘Arry would say.
In saying all that, I can’t stand Arsenal because of their delusional fans and Chelsea are just cheating, racist f@cktards so I’m not saying I am holier than thou.
Steve (I love Peak Arsenal) Coatsworth
…Gavin from the Monday morning mailbox asks if there are any fans out there who like their rivals. In my case, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. As a Liverpool fan since the mid-90’s, I’ve always had a soft spot for Everton and actually wanted them to do well – it has always struck me as a classy club with great fans. I’m sure it helps that I did not grow up in England, so supporting Liverpool from Rwanda like I do strips away a lot of the geographical dynamics which informs the hatred Liverpool fans have for Everton.
I’ve also always had a soft spot for Spurs as well (my big brother is a Spurs fan and I nearly went down that road). I’m sure this is all sacrilege to a lot of Liverpool fans, but that’s my confession.
Turiyo Damascene, Rwanda
…I admire Southampton. There, I said it, and it didn’t cause any sicky burps or anything nasty like that. The contrast between them and us (no, not Bournemouth, silly) over the last say 10 years is an object lesson in how to get it brilliantly right over how to get it spectacularly wrong. While we were romping around the Prem and winning the FA Cup by splurging big bucks on short-term options, we took much (childish) joy from the travails of our friends down the road as they sunk to the third tier.
BBut of course as we now know, Rupert Whatsit and then the Swiss bloke were doing what any club head with a brain inside it should do, sorting out the basics so you’ve got a proper platform to build on – sparkly new stadium and a youth development system the envy of most other English clubs – a long-term view from which they are now reaping the dividends, while we ply our trade in the bottom tier. Hopefully now we have the PST in place we will be less prone to financial disasters – though in 40-odd years of supporting I’ve known very little else! – and can move up the leagues slowly but surely. Though don’t rule out a sudden rush of blood to the head five years from now as we sign an ageing Messi on a free with a wage bill of £15 million a week guaranteed for five years, three days before his kneecaps explode.
So in short, though ‘like’ is perhaps a bit of a stretch, I do admire them and yes, even wish them success, just not any trophies please. They’ll always be The Scummers to me of course, but not through any hatred, just because it’s childishly stupid and it makes me laugh.
Tobes (Ben Doherty, yes oh yes!) PFC
…As a fan of Chelsea I’m generally supposed to hate Arsenal and Spurs, but in reality I don’t mind Spurs and quite like Arsenal, I actually dislike Man City maybe because all their millions makes me feel insecure about our millions.
I actually want Arsenal to win the league, mostly because I think Arsene Wenger is a nice man and he deserves a little happiness, I feel like he’ll cry if they win the league and then I’ll cry and it’ll be wonderful, I think if I had the choice now I’d probably support Arsenal, even as a Chelsea fan I despise Mourinho purely because of his horrible attitude and the Eva Cairnero incident, I’d honestly take Ancelotti and seventh place because then we’d have his eyebrow thing and that’s just great as well as the fact that Ancelotti actually made us a somewhat likeable and attractive team.
Liking your rivals…and then seeing the error
In response to Gavin (COYBIG) Dundalk, Ireland , I’m from Zimbabwe and live in South Africa. Been supporting Arsenal since 1996 and for a few years in the late nineties and early noughties, I considered Spurs to be my second favorite team. That love-in was cemented when they sold/gave us Sol Campbell on a free. But as I grew older (and wiser) I soon understood the history of the rivalry and Spurs have moved from second favorite to least favorite (alongside Chelsea). Now it’s 2015, I may have never been to London or to an Arsenal game, but let’s just say I would happily sing along with Jack Wilshere.
Lindelwe (I know what I think of Tottenham) Moyo, AFC, Cape Town
Did Bale ever have a Real chance?
I’ve been meaning to write this in for quite a while now. What better time than the international break to send this in when actual football news are in short supply.
So basically it’s been two years since Gareth Bale left England (Spurs) for Madrid for a mind-blowing world record fee. And so much was expected of him after he single-handedly (arguably) lifted Spurs during the 2012/2013 season. It was believed that he and CR7 will tag along together in the same team, score lots of goals, deliver trophies for the club, and terrorize La Liga. It was the stuff dreams were made of.
But then his settling-in period was blighted by injuries. He was rushed back for the El Clasico and he was only able to show glimpses of his quality. More was expected of the club’s record signing from the fans of the biggest club in the world.
He regained a bit of form, scored a couple of goals, got injured again and had to start all over again. It was frustrating.
To the point, Bale hasn’t been what the Madrid fans wanted him to be. A match-winner, a cult figure, a 50-goal-a-season winger. He has only on a few occasions show a glimpse of his quality. Most importantly, he hasn’t justified his price-tag (I won’t take the Copa Del Ray success over Barcelona). Don’t get me wrong. Bale has been a decent signing. And at most football clubs, he would be deemed a success. But at Real Madrid that means nothing. He isn’t measuring up to the lofty standards of CR7 the Madrid fans would have you believe.
He is yet to get 30 goals for them in a season. And he isn’t helped by the fact that CR7 takes all the penalty kicks and that the team is set up to benefit him. No wonder he outscores Benzema every season.
He has been regularly criticized by the Madrid fans for not giving his all and even when he tries to drive the team single-handedly to victory, he is called selfish and scolded by the egomaniac CR7. He isn’t going to achieve what CR7 has achieved with Madrid. I don’t see him getting anywhere near the club’s top goalscorers. It’s nothing to be ashamed of though.
Admittedly, it’s going to be difficult for any player to get the spotlight when you have a certain CR7 in the same team. It was ALWAYS going to be damn hard.
Smith (the Chelsea bus got a new tyre)
Why fifth is the new last…
Interesting article on whether or not the Europa League impacts league form during the course of the season.
One thing that wasn’t considered but will likely have a big impact is transfers. A key player for a team that finished fifth in the Premier League would be relatively easy to poach by a ‘bigger’ (higher finishing) club, due to the pull of money /prestige that a Champions League club can offer. Conversely, it will be difficult for the selling club to replace the departing ‘star’ – clubs at this level often (although certainly not always) have to take a chance on a player, who may or may not work out (especially if they are younger/coming from a different league and need a season to settle/develop – see Lamela).
As such, I reckon that some Europa teams that see performance the next season plummet could be suffering from losing key personnel without having an adequate replacement. Conversely, clubs that do keep their players might not suffer the same drop (see Dortmund this season after no major sales over the summer).
Jack (I’ve done no research. This could be b*llocks) Manchester
Football book recommendations? Here we go. [I have avoided those which I feel will be recommended by many others.]
Bill Buford – Among the Thugs. American Academic immerses himself in 1980’s football thuggery, appears to understand almost all of what he sees, and comments with wit and verve upon that which he does not understand. Not a nice book, but a brilliant one.
Simon Kuper – Football Against the Enemy. Kuper’s attempt to work out why football has different styles across the world. I am not sure he ever really answers the question, but he digs deep and answers a lot of other, interesting ones.
George Orwell – The Sporting Spirit [essay, 1945] An essay about football, and other sports, and how they were viewed in England at the time. I have quoted it in a letter to this mailbox before, but I am sure you all remember that, anyway.
David Winner – Brilliant Orange. Study of Dutch football from the 60s to the 90s.
Stephen Studd – Herbert Chapman – Football Emperor. One for those who don’t even like Arsenal. Learn exactly what Chapman brought to the game. [A lot.]
Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne
Question of the day
Due to a raging hangover I caught an episode of Sunday Supplement this week for the first time in some while. It left me with one question; is Anthony Kastrinakis’ face on inside out?
Lee (no Raven quoting)
I was really worried about the PFM article that surely Mr . Nicholson would run out of nightclub names or at least run out of funny ones but the ‘Sandy Slit’ has had me laughing for three days now. Well played sir.
Will (Robbie Brady for the Ballon d’or) Dublin